Brandon Gormley is twenty-three, so he’s got plenty of time to grow as a defenseman.
The Arizona Coyotes have taken defensemen in the first round a fair amoung in recent seasons, though. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Connor Murphy are both first rounders; although he’s not a Coyotes pick, even John Moore is a first rounder, as well. That’s four first-round selected defenseman under the age of 25 in the Coyotes system, and that doesn’t even consider whether Klas Dahlbeck, Michael Stone, and Philip Samuelsson aren’t possibly outplaying their draft position.
As such, Gormley has been the rotating odd man out nearly all season. After struggling to make the team’s active roster, he took off midway through the fall part of the season; had he not gone down with an injury that held him out of the lineup for a handful of weeks, it’s possible the young blue liner wouldn’t be in the position he’s in now.
With just a handful of games left this season, though, the Coyotes have reassigned Gormley to the Portland Pirates of the AHL — and he’ll likely play out the rest of the year there.
Although the Coyotes have had no trouble bringing in offensive talent on the blue line, solid back-end defenders are sorely lacking within the Pacific Division franchise’s depth charts. Michael Stone and Connor Murphy are both developing into lethal physical players on the ice, but only Stone truly has a feel for playing shut-down defense. AHL call-up Andrew Campbell has gone above and beyond to try to fill in this need — but Gormley, although initially trumpeted as a solid two-way defender, has seemingly lost that defensive zone confidence he was once so envied for. As a third pairing player with decent offensive talents, the PEI native could have a respectable NHL future — he could even be a premier secondary contributor on a power play unit — but with a bottleneck at his position, a final season reassignment to the AHL could be the former first round pick’s swan song in the desert.
Philip Samuelsson, Dysin Mayo, and even Justin Hache could pan out into strong NHL players down the line, so Arizona has reached (yet again) a point where they don’t have an insane surplus of blue line depth, but there’s more than enough to go around. Should the team need to move Gormley — which would both benefit them and him, as he’d be likely to get more NHL ice time on a team with fewer defensive talents filling up their roster spots — it wouldn’t be a disaster; if anything it could benefit the club.
A number of NHL franchises are both cap crunched and weak on the blue line. For a team with no money to spare or no back end depth, Gormley would be a perfect addition; in return, the Coyotes could either reinforce their goaltending depth chart or continue to fill in the holes in their offensive lineup. It’s not a guarantee that Gormley will go, but it’s not a bad option to consider.